Quick Contact

Are you missing valuable credit information on those you deal with?

Find out what information is available. Just complete the form below and we will contact you.




Re-Type Code:

Refer Potential Members

Why should I submit potential members to NACM?

Are you tired of dealing with
credit reference requests?

Direct the requesting company info to NACM. As a member they will have access to our reports. You will get fewer credit reference requests and their information will be added to your NACM reports.

Connect With Us

< back to News
Nov 01 2019
Face Time
D'Ann Johnson, CCE, A-Core Concrete Cutting

In this age of technology, most communication is conducted through text, e-mail, Skype or any of the numerous mechanisms available to send and receive information. The convenience and speed that these avenues provide allow us to conduct business almost at the "speed of light!" In fact, studies show that people aged 32 and under prefer technology-based communication over traditional telephone or face-to-face methods. The ability to attach supporting information, pictures, spread sheets or copies of previous conversations allows the sender to give the recipient any and all information they could possibly want or need to understand any given situation. But do they really?

In his book, Talking to Strangers, Malcom Gladwell discusses how communications, even in person, can be a proverbial land mine if extra caution isn't taken. Mr. Gladwell relates the story of the confrontation with the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and Montezuma. When Cortes came to Mexico, he knew nothing of the Aztecs, their customs or language. Conversely, no European had ever set foot in Mexico so the Aztecs knew nothing of these strangers that had landed on their shores. Communication between the two was difficult as Cortes only knew Spanish and Montezuma only knew Nahuatl; in order to communicate, Cortes would speak Spanish to his translator who, in turn, translated into Mayan for a third translator who would then translate the Mayan into Nahuatl for Montezuma. Is it any wonder that their very first communication set the stage for the war that was to follow?

Now, imagine you're sitting down, face to face with someone with whom you are certain speaks the same language, but you find yourself at loggerheads because you aren't understanding one another. Everyone has their own, individual understanding of language; the inflection of tone, the phrasing of sentences or ideas, even the meaning of a word or phrase coupled with a specific facial expression or cadence can mean something very different to the person you're speaking with.

So, with the multiple layers of communication that go on when you are talking to someone face to face, can you be sure that the one-dimensional message you're sending via text or e-mail is being received in the way that you intended? The short answer is, no. What may seem clear to you may not make sense to the person receiving the information. I had the opportunity to see this in real time earlier this month when, after a volley of e-mails (with supporting attachments) had gone back and forth between one of our Client Account Specialists and the accounts payable representative of one our largest customers, a stalemate had been reached. When I received the call from my Client Account Specialist, I could hear the frustration in her voice. From her point of view, she had sent our customers AP rep. all the necessary back up documentation and had explained, repeatedly, in her e-mail that the customer was using credits that didn't exist in our system to apply to open invoices causing short pays. Additionally, they were over paying invoices that we had adjusted pricing on, so in her AR system she had short pays as well as unapplied cash - all she wanted was to know if it was okay to use the unapplied cash to clear the short paid invoices. The response to this from our customer was quick and harsh - if we had unapplied cash credits, then we should be cutting a refund check to those funds immediately. As far as the short-paid invoices, we had issued credit memos (which he kindly attached to his e-mail) that they had "the right to apply anyway they saw fit." As you would imagine, additional e-mails only made the situation worse, with the frustration becoming very apparent in both party's e-mails. By the time I was brought in to assist, the relationship had digressed to a point of open accusations of improper account procedures.

My first step was to request all e-mail strings sent to me for review. There was one theme that was consistent throughout all of the e-mails and it appeared to me that they were both talking about the same thing, just using different terminology - my Client Account Specialist was referencing our "adjusting invoices" while our customer referred to these same items as "credits." While the result is the same (our customer was to receive credit for an overbill or price adjustment), the process of creating and applying these adjustments work differently. For us, an adjusting invoice is a credit that is immediately applied to the original invoice, reducing the balance owed. Notice is then sent to the customer in the form of an adjusted invoice showing lower amount owed for that invoice. In our customers world, any negative amount is entered as an open credit, to be used at their discretion, against any invoice of their choosing. On the surface, this should have been a simple conversation to explain the difference in terminology but two telephone conversations and three e-mails later, we were still at a stalemate. At this point I offered to come to their office to discuss adjusting invoices/credits and clarify what happens in our system versus what happens in their system.

In preparation for this meeting, I asked my Client Account Specialist to pull the original invoices on any short pays as well as any adjustment invoices and statements showing the adjustments made to the invoiced amounts with the new total due. Additionally, I asked her to access all the e-mails relating to this issue so that we could review them together, in person, prior to our meeting with the customer. The goal of this pre-meeting was to ensure that we were on the same page and to discuss what I felt was the key item of the miscommunication. Imagine my surprise when my team member didn't understand the difference between an adjusting invoice and a credit memo! So, the question is, if we have issues within our own company when it comes something as "simple" as adjustments versus credits, how can we expect our team to relay clear information to our customers? Drilling down even further, I'd had several conversations both e-mail and telephone with both the branch manager and the Client Account Specialist for this account and didn't realize they didn't understand what I was saying!

It took a face to face meeting with my team, and later with our customer, with all the printed information, walking through the processes in both companies and showing the different outcomes in both systems before there was clarity in the conversation. Once we drilled down into the difference in terminology for this miscommunication, it opened dialogue on other issues that may not have been addressed completely had the face to face communication not occurred.

In the book Crucial Conversations by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler, they talk about "filling the pool of shared meaning" which basically means that all information, no matter how big or small, is added to the shared pool of information - the more information, the better/deeper the understanding of the situation. While attachments and e-mails are informational, we are assessing the information from our own standpoint, not sharing the same pool as the person on the opposite or receiving end. In short, we become silos - only assessing information as it affects us and our needs. Face to face meetings allow all parties to share the same information pool so that discussions, clarity and decisions are cohesive and synergetic - moving all parties to a better, more informed decision or outcome.

In short, technology allows us to send and receive valuable information in a timely manner but becoming dependent on this form of communication can be short sighted and costly. A phone call can assist in clarifying information but may still leave large gaps that the other person will fill in with their own story based on previous experience (whether with you or someone else in a similar situation) that could still lead to miscommunication and conflict later. Taking the opportunity to sit down with your customer or team member leads to deeper understanding, and in my opinion, great appreciation for the other side.